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Elder Abuse and Neglect

Elder abuse is the sustained physical or psychological assault of an older person.  Abuse and neglect is different from criminal behavior because it is typically repetitive. A single incident of physical assault or verbal abuse is generally not considered to be elder abuse and neglect.  The most common form of abuse is to threaten to put the elderly person into a nursing home if that person does not behave in the way demanded by the abuser.  Abuse and neglect occur in both institutional settings, such as a nursing home, and also in the community, most commonly in the victim’s home.  Some behavioral signs of a victim include:

  • Fearful
  • Easily frightened
  • Confused
  • Overly emotional
  • Depressed
  • Unresponsive

Abuse can take place either by actively injuring the older person, or by inaction that permits a person to be injured. 

1. Physical signs of abuse include:

·         Abrasions, cuts or bruises

·         Asphyxiation or hypothermia

·         Untreated bed sores

·         Broken or dislocated bones

·         Burns or scalding

·         Unexplained injuries or wounds

·         Over sedation, poisoning

·         Friction from restraints

2. Psychological or Mental Abuse

·         Humiliation

·         Intimidation

·         Threats

·         Verbal assaults

Elder neglect refers to a willful refusal, by a caregiver or any person with a duty to provide care, to provide services necessary to maintain an elderly person’s physical or mental health.  Neglect is the most common form of abuse by caregivers.  Sometimes it is passive, meaning an unconscious or unintended failure to fulfill caregiving obligations.  Self-neglect occurs when the older person neglects his or her own care. 

Signs of neglect may include:

·         Medications not given as prescribed

·         Lack of needed glasses

·         Lack of hearing aids or dentures

·         Inadequate or insufficient food

·         Inadequate personal hygiene

·         Unpaid bills accumulating

·         Unsafe or hazardous environment

·         Inadequate shelter or clothing

Neglect can only occur if there is a duty of care that arises out of a legal relationship.  For example, spouses have a legal obligation to care for one another.  A duty of care for another more commonly arises from a contractual relationship or from creating a reliance expectation.  Reliance of an older person on another for care is very common.  For example, Melissa begins to help her Aunt Lucy when Lucy becomes bedridden, Melissa cannot simply cease to show up without making some provision for Lucy’s care.  Having made Lucy dependent upon her, Melissa has responsibility to see that Lucy is not abandoned.  If she fails to ensure that Lucy is taken care of, Melissa is guilty of neglect.

Elder exploitation refers to the financial abuse of individuals by the repeated improper or illegal use of their assets.

Signs of exploitation may include:

·         Missing money or property

·         Sudden and unusual bank activity

·         Unauthorized signatures on checks

·         Unusual withdrawals from bank

Elder abuse is a crime.  The State of Nevada Aging and Disability Services Division provides Elder Protective Services for persons 60 years of age and older who may experience abuse, neglect, exploitation, or isolation.  Any person may report an incident of abuse if they have reasonable cause to believe that an elderly person has been abused, neglected, exploited, or isolated.  All information received as a result of a report is confidential.

If an older person is in immediate danger, the local police, sheriff’s office or emergency medical service should be contacted.  If the older person is not in immediate danger, report elder abuse by calling the Statewide Toll Free Hotline at 888-729-0571.